National basketball coach Alexander Bucan has a simple advice for the country's players: “Be bold.”
“Indian basketball has only reached a certain level and it does not have a professional league …so, if players want to do well, they must play in professional leagues outside the country,” said the Serbian.
“If a player feels that he is good, he should leave everything and try his luck in a foreign league, he will earn ten times what he is earning now. He should have the confidence to take that step.”
Sadly, Indian basketballers lack this confidence.
“In a way, it's a social problem, Indian players don't believe in themselves,” said the 36-year-old at the Star Lagoon here.
He is happy that Geethu tested her talent in Australia and came out with flying colours which helped the Indian team in a big way at the Asian championship and the Commonwealth Games.
But even the Indian star is found wanting in the confidence department.
“Geethu had an offer to attend the Women's NBA trials but she did not go. She was not confident enough to attend it,” said Bucan. “The American WNBA is the world's best women's league and even if she had gone for the trials, it would have boosted her reputation in a big way.
“Naturally, if your best player doesn't have the confidence to try her luck in some of the world's best leagues, how do you expect the others to have it.”
Bucan went a bit further. “I strongly believe Geethu should throw away her Railway job and concentrate on a full-time professional career and only come back to play for the national team,” said Bucan.
“And when she returns, probably by 30 after achieving so much, don't you think the Government would not give her a good job. Even at that age, she would easily be among the best players in the country and a big asset for teams like the Railways.”
Bucan feels that players should not be given permanent Government jobs. Instead, they should be given top contracts based on performance and results.
“Top players should be thinking about basketball 24 hours a day but in Government jobs, they have to play and also attend to their department. Then, they become semi-professionals,” said the coach.
“Indian player Talwinderjit Singh, for example, wants to stay a professional. He went to the US for trials and is looking for openings in foreign leagues,” said the coach. “He has got offers from many institutions like the Railways, Services and ONGC but he wants to stay a free bird and concentrate on his game for now.”
Indian basketball will improve in a big way if it starts a professional league, said Bucan. “Iran started a strong programme to boost basketball in a big way ten years ago. It started a pro league. Now, it is the Asian champion.”